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Away

Production dates: June 09, 1992 - June 27, 1992
Venue: The Sydney Theatre Company
Directed by: Michael Gow
Literature: Michael Gow
Costume Design: Judith Hoddinott
Set Design: Judith Hoddinott

The tale of three families packing up their troubles and trundling them off for the annual Christmas holiday, has achieved a desrvedly unique status in terms of acceptance, appreciation and articulation of broad timeless and timely issues. Based on Michael Gow's novel, the story is a deceptively simple one, where a poor family is enjoying their last Christmas with their beloved son who is dying of cancer. No one knows and his interaction with other people and families enables them to heal emotional storms because of his acceptance. Seemingly serious the play is wrapped in comedy as the events take place while the families are "Away" enjoying a typical Australian beach Christmas.

Cast & Characters

Toni Collette (Meg), Robyn Arthur, Nicholas Eadie, Odile Le Clezio, Duncan Wass, Tom Weaver, Robert Willox

Production Notes

A beloved classic and one of Australia’s most staged theatre productions, Away is a play about family, loss and coming-of-age in an era when Australia was struggling to redefine itself. Its first production was at Griffin Theatre in 1986 and won the Premier’s Literary Award for Plays that year. The Sydney Theatre Company first staged Away the in 1987, directed by our first Artistic Director, Richard Wherrett. The production was designed by Robert Kemp with lighting by Nick Schlieper. The play had its US premiere with this production at the 1988 International Festival of Performing Arts in Purchase, New York before it returned to Sydney Opera House in 1988 with Gow stepping into the director’s role. With Away added to the Australian high school syllabus soon after, education productions were mounted in 1992, 1993 and 1994 and 2004. In 2017, Away returns to STC with a new production at Sydney Opera House directed by Malthouse Theatre’s Artistic Director Matthew Lutton.

I directed ‘Away’ in 1992 at Sydney Theatre Company for the education wing and working on it, I asked myself a lot of questions. One of them was, ‘once the play within a play on the beach is performed, is Tom’s dramatic function over?’ The answer was ‘probably’. So it affected the very last scene of the play and then I did a terrible thing to Toni Collette, playing Meg. We didn’t tell her, but on stage handed her the extract of King Lear which, in the printed and published play, is read by the boy. Toni, once she got over the shock and being the great actor she is, she was amazing, came through brilliantly. Afterwards, she burst into tears because she realised the implications of it all. It was a great moment. (Michael Gow, Adelaide Now, September 2006)